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How to choose the best tinted sunscreen for your skin tone and type

Experts call tinted sunscreen a “multitasker” since it can replace sunscreen, primer and foundation in your skin care routine.
Tinted sunscreens are just as effective as regular sunscreens so long as you choose the right one, experts say.
Tinted sunscreens are just as effective as regular sunscreens so long as you choose the right one, experts say.Vivian Le / NBC

No one product can do it all, which is why skin care routines often consist of multiple steps. But tinted sunscreen is a multitasker, experts say.  It can replace sunscreen, primer and foundation since it’s designed to even out skin tone while protecting you from UV rays. And as long as you buy the right one, tinted sunscreen is just as effective as standard face sunscreen, says Dr. Erum Ilyas, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group.

SKIP AHEAD The best tinted sunscreens to shop | What is tinted sunscreen? | How to choose a coverage level |Tinted versus untinted sunscreen: What’s better? | How often to reapply tinted sunscreen

If you’re interested in adding tinted sunscreen to your daily skin care regimen, we talked to experts about how to find the right one for your skin tone and type. We also rounded up a handful of tinted sunscreens we tried ourselves, in addition to expert-recommended options.

Our top picks

How we picked the best tinted sunscreens

When shopping for tinted sunscreens, experts recommend considering the following factors:

  • SPF level: Experts recommend purchasing tinted sunscreen that has at least a SPF 30 rating, which is in line with the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation. Going up to SPF 50 can add an additional layer of protection, but SPF ratings over 50 offer only marginally more UV blockage, experts told us.
  • Broad-spectrum protection: Make sure the tinted sunscreen you buy mentions “broad-spectrum” somewhere on the packaging. This tells you that it shields skin from UVA and UVB rays — UVA rays are associated with signs of aging, and UVB rays can lead to sunburns and skin cancer, according to the AAD.
  • Shade: Tinted sunscreen comes in a variety of shades so you can choose one that best matches your skin tone. Some brands offer a more expansive range of shades than others, and many have shade matching tools online to help guide your shopping. Overall, finding the right shade may take some trial and error, and you’ll need to try the tinted sunscreen on your face to know if it’s a match. 
  • Coverage level: Coverage level refers to how well tinted sunscreen hides blemishes, evens out skin tone and covers redness. There are three coverage levels: light, medium and full. We explain more about finding the right coverage level for you below. 
  • Chemical versus mineral sunscreen: There are two types of sunscreen: mineral and chemical. Both provide equal amounts of protection, so choosing one is entirely a matter of personal preference. Mineral sunscreen contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. It sits on top of the skin to act like a shield against UV rays, making it less likely to cause irritation for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. Chemical sunscreen contains ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone and octinoxate, which the skin absorbs. These chemicals help turn UV rays into heat, which is then dissipated from the skin.
  • Ingredients: If you’re shopping with specific skin concerns in mind, look for tinted sunscreen made with ingredients that target — or don’t exacerbate — those issues. For example, if you have acne-prone or oily skin, experts recommend looking for tinted sunscreen that’s labeled as “noncomedogenic,” meaning it won’t clog pores. And if you’re struggling with dry skin, consider buying tinted sunscreen with moisturizing hyaluronic acid.

The best tinted sunscreens to shop

To recommend the best tinted sunscreens, we tried products from a variety of different brands and asked experts about their favorite options. All of the tinted sunscreens below have at least a SPF 30 rating and offer broad-spectrum protection.

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturizer Gel Cream SPF 30

Some tinted moisturizers are formulated with SPF, making them a great option if you’re looking to hydrate skin, protect it from UV rays and even out skin tone with a single product. Ilyas recommends the BareMinerals Complexion Rescue, as does NBC Select associate reporter Bianca Alvarez, who says it’s a tried-and-true product she’s used for years. The tinted SPF has a mousse-like feel, and offers light coverage while giving skin a subtle dewy glow, says Alvarez. Its ingredients include squalane and hyaluronic acid to boost the skin’s moisture levels, and it’s noncomedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores), as well as oil-free.

Type: Mineral | SPF: 30 | Shade range: 20 shades | Coverage level: Light

EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

The EltaMD tinted sunscreen is a game-changer for her sensitive skin, says NBC Select updates editor Mili Godio. “It’s never caused any irritation or made my redness worse, which is a big issue I have with skin care products in general,” says Godio. The tinted sunscreen is also makeup artist Meredith Boyd’s favorite option because it blends into skin flawlessly and gives it a dewy glow, she says. EltaMD’s tinted sunscreen contains niacinamide to brighten skin, moisturizing hyaluronic acid and nourishing vitamin E, according to the brand. It’s also oil-free.

Type: Mineral | SPF: 46 | Shade range: 1 shade | Coverage level: Light

Saie Slip Tint Dewy Tinted Moisturizer SPF 35 Sunscreen

When she wants more coverage, Godio opts for Saie’s tinted SPF, which she says reduces redness and covers breakouts and uneven patches on her skin. And even though it provides a lot of coverage, the tinted sunscreen does not feel heavy on Godio’s face, something she looks for since she has dry, sensitive skin. She describes the texture as lightweight and mousse-like, and adds that it’s a buildable option — if you apply more layers of the product, it offers more coverage. Saie’s tinted SPF contains hydrating hyaluronic acid and sweet pea extract, as well as licorice root to brighten skin and argan oil that leaves a dewy finish, according to the brand.

Type: Mineral | SPF: 35 | Shade range: 14 shades | Coverage level: Medium

Tower 28 SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen

Tower 28 is one of our favorite AAPI-owned companies, and since the brand sent me its SunnyDays tinted moisturizer to try, it’s become my everyday go-to option. I have very sensitive skin, and I struggle to cover up red spots on my face, especially around my mouth and eyes. The Tower 28 tinted sunscreen tames redness and does not further irritate my skin. It also has the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance. “As someone who has been dealing with eczema my entire life, I liked knowing that this product was formulated to address the concerns I have while protecting me from all the light exposure I come in contact with,” says Alvarez, who also uses the product. The tinted sunscreen is made with prickly pear and aloe vera, ingredients that soothe, calm and soften skin, according to the brand.

Type: Mineral | SPF: 46 | Shade range: 17 shades | Coverage level: Light to medium

Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40

Ilia’s Super Serum Skin Tint is one of the most moisturizing options we recommend, based on my experience using the product after the brand sent it to me. It’s a liquidy serum that comes in a tincture bottle, and a few drops go a long way. When I rub it in, it feels like my skin is drinking up the hydrating hyaluronic acid, squalane and niacinamide. The oil-free skin tint is gentle and lightweight as well, so I use it when I have irritated, flakey, dry skin. Alvarez also recommends Ilia’s skin tint and says its 30 shade range provides an option for just about everyone.

Type: Mineral | SPF: 40 | Shade range: 30 shades | Coverage level: Light

Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40

Supergoop’s Glowscreen is one of our favorite sunscreens for acne-prone skin. I’ve used it for years, and it never causes breakouts or makes my skin feel oily. The lightweight texture makes the tinted sunscreen comfortable for all-day wear. Glowscreen gives skin a dewy finish, and the formula includes hydrating ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and sea lavender, as well as cocoa peptides, which helps filter blue light, according to the brand. 

Type: Mineral | SPF: 40 | Shade range: 4 shades | Coverage level: Light

Isdin Eryfotona Ageless Tinted Sunscreen SPF 50+

Many tinted sunscreens give skin a dewy glow, but some prefer options that leave a matte finish, like this one from Isdin, which the brand sent me to try. The sunscreen itself has a thin, liquid texture, and it blends into my skin almost instantly. It’s lightweight, and despite leaving a matte finish, it doesn’t feel drying or cakey. The tinted sunscreen is made with the brand’s proprietary DNA Repairsomes and peptides to help repair skin from sun damage, according to the brand, as well as antioxidants like vitamin E. Its formula is noncomedogenic and water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.

Type: Mineral | SPF: 50 | Shade range: 1 shade | Coverage level: Light

Naked Sundays Collagen Glow 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+

The thick, buttery texture of Naked Sundays’ tinted sunscreen sold me on this product when I tried it after the brand sent me a sample. It feels rich and creamy on my skin, and leaves behind a shimmery glow. The tinted sunscreen is made with Naked Sundays’ proprietary vegan collagen to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and boost moisture, according to the brand. It also has watermelon extract, which contains vitamin C. Naked Sundays tinted SPF is reef-safe, noncomedogenic and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Type: Mineral | SPF: 50 | Shade range: 1 shade | Coverage level: Light

Younique Bare You BB Tinted Moisturizer and Sunscreen SPF 30

The first time I wore this tinted moisturizer, friends told me that my skin looked airbrushed — as someone with dry, acne-prone skin, that’s one of the best compliments I can receive. The tinted sunscreen gives my skin a smooth, matte texture and even tone, hence the “airbrushed” effect.  And while it offers the most coverage out of the options I’ve tried, it’s still lightweight and I forget I’m wearing it. Younique’s tinted SPF is designed to wear for 12 hours, according to the brand — every time I’ve worn it for about that long, I have not noticed it fade or start to wipe away.

Type: Mineral | SPF: 50 | Shade range: 9 shades | Coverage level: Medium

Daybird Tinted Skincare

“It’s really hard to find a tinted sunscreen option for fair skin that doesn’t look too dark, but this one seamlessly melts into my very pale skin,” says NBC Select editor Lindsay Schneider. She wears it on its own as well as under makeup, and Schneider says it gives her skin a glowy appearance without making her feel shiny or greasy. The noncomedogenic tinted SPF also has a thin, lightweight texture and contains niacinamide as well as bisabolol, a chamomile extract that helps reduce inflammation and even out skin tone, according to Daybird, one of our favorite women-owned brands.

Type: Mineral | SPF: 50 | Shade range: 4 shades | Coverage level: Light

Cay Skin Isle Glow Face Lotion SPF 45

The Cay Skin Isle Glow Face Lotion won best face sunscreen in Select’s 2023 Wellness Awards. It doesn’t leave a white cast on her darker skin and blends in quickly, leaving behind a glowy look, says Sadhana Daruvuri, Select social media editor. The tinted sunscreen contains niacinamide as well as hydrating plant-based nectar and sea moss to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier, according to the brand. Keep in mind that while the formula is noncomedogenic, it’s a chemical sunscreen, so it may irritate sensitive or acne-prone skin, experts told us.

Type: Chemical | SPF: 45 | Shade range: 1 shade | Coverage level: Medium

What is tinted sunscreen?

Tinted sunscreen contains flesh-colored pigments to help it seamlessly blend into skin. This makes tinted sunscreen more cosmetically elegant compared to its untinted counterpart, says Ilyas. Untinted sunscreen tends to leave behind a white, chalky residue many seek to avoid, especially on their face.

Tinted sunscreen is often grouped into the same category as BB cream and CC cream since all three help even out skin tone before you apply makeup. BB cream — otherwise known as beauty balm — is geared toward those dealing with redness. CC cream — or color correcting cream — provides a matte finish, making it helpful for those who have oily skin. Tinted sunscreen offers cosmetic and functional benefits thanks to the built-in UV protection. BB and CC creams can be made with SPF — these variations are essentially specialized types of tinted sunscreen.

How to choose what coverage level is right for you

Coverage refers to how well pigmented products like tinted sunscreen, foundation and BB or CC creams hide blemishes, even out skin tone and reduce redness that can be caused by rosacea or eczema, for example. There are three coverage levels:

  • Light coverage — which can also be referred to as sheer coverage — are skin care products that give skin a dewy glow or shimmer, and subtly improve skin tone. They won’t hide acne, but they can dull redness. They’re ideal for people looking for a “barely there” makeup look and feel.
  • Medium coverage products even out skin tone more so than light coverage options, and can make blemishes look less noticeable. Medium coverage products are also buildable — one layer gives you a light finish, while additional layers can help you move closer to a full coverage look.
  • Full coverage products completely hide blemishes and even out skin tone. They also make the skin texture smooth, providing a fresh surface to apply makeup on top of.

Most tinted sunscreen offers light or medium coverage — it’s a sunscreen that’s tinted, not a makeup designed solely for cosmetic purposes. If you’re going for a more full coverage look, foundation is a better option, and you can buy options formulated with SPF, says Ilyas.

Is tinted sunscreen as effective as regular sunscreen?

Yes, tinted sunscreen is just as effective as regular sunscreen, so long as you buy one that has a minimum SPF 30 rating and offers broad-spectrum protection. It’s also important to make sure you’re applying enough sunscreen to your face and neck for adequate protection — a 1/2 teaspoon of product (about the size of a dime) for each is a good rule of thumb, says Ilyas.

Because tinted sunscreen can also act as your primer and foundation, you may be more inclined to use it, thus increasing the chance that you remember to wear SPF daily. Additionally, tinted sunscreen usually gets its color from iron oxides, an ingredient that aids in blocking blue light, a type of UVA ray, says Ilyas. So that tint can actually enhance how well your skin is protected from both.

How often should you apply tinted sunscreen?

The trickiest part of wearing tinted sunscreen is knowing when to reapply and how to do so. Experts generally recommend reapplying sunscreen every two hours, but since most people wear makeup over tinted sunscreen, reapplication can be a challenge.

If you’re not spending much time outdoors and are not directly exposed to the sun for long periods of time, applying tinted sunscreen once in the morning offers you enough protection for the rest of the day, Ilyas says. But if you end up spending a lot of time outside and need to reapply SPF over makeup, the best solution is using brush-on powdered sunscreen, Boyd says. She’s worked with actors who spend hours filming outside, and to ensure they don’t burn, she reapplies SPF over their makeup using Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Brush and Derma-e Sun Protection Mineral Powder SPF 30. She recommends these options because they mattify the face while adding a layer of UV protection.

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

Why trust Select?

Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at Select who has reported about skin care products like spray sunscreen and sunscreen for acne-prone skin. For this piece, Malin tried multiple tinted sunscreens, gathered recommendations from Select staffers and experts and interviewed two experts to learn how to shop for the product.

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